Used in studios and on stages around the world for over 20 years, Tech 21’s SansAmp devices have been praised for their tube-amp emulation. And with all-analog circuitry and a buffered bypass, Tech 21’s effects pedals also display the company’s “vintage-in-a-box” mentality. Having been applauded by bassists for their improvement to the “typical” chorus pedal with the Bass Boost Chorus, Tech 21 has recently introduced their take on classic fuzz for bassists, fittingly named the Bass Boost Fuzz.
Fuzz Tones for All
Tech 21 created the Bass Boost Fuzz with inspiration from its counterpart for guitarists, the Boost Fuzz. Emulating the classic sound of germanium transistors, this pedal solves some of the issues associated with the older fuzz boxes. Tech 21 believes that bassists were frustrated with using earlier fuzz pedals, which typically catered to guitar frequencies. As a result, the bottom end of their tone would disappear because the effects were not voiced for the bass.
The Bass Boost Fuzz offers five knobs for dialing in that perfect sound. Adjusting the level adds fuzz, while the clean knob blends in the instrument’s initial signal. The tone knob is described as a specialized low-pass filter that shifts the high cut from 10 kHz to 1 kHz. In other words, the pedal delivers a fuzz tone ranging from a warm, mellow buzz, to an edgy and biting grind. The amount of fuzz can then be tempered with the drive dial, which also responds to volume adjustments from the instrument in hand.
As its name implies, a bonus feature on the Bass Boost Fuzz is the boost function, and this fifth knob offers the player a massive 21 dB of clean boost. The boost works post-effect, so it increases the signal without adding more distortion. And because it’s operated by a separate footswitch, the boost can be used with or without the effect.
Other unique improvements to the classic-fuzz formula include a 1 Ω input (which matches well with a variety of pickups) and a buffered bypass that prevents signal loss and high-end loss when the Bass Boost Fuzz is linked to other pedals. It’s clear that Tech 21 has studied the scrolls of fuzz-box design, producing an effect with a vintage voice in a modern body.
I dissected the Bass Boost Fuzz’s tones using a Phil Jones D-600 head and a pair of Glockenklang 112 cabinets. I put the pedal through its paces while alternating between a Ritter R8 Singlecut, a ’64 Fender Jazz, and a Nash P-style bass.
With all three instruments, the Bass Boost Fuzz delivered a tight fuzz tone with a slight, low-mid punch. It took a little time to balance and blend the effect and clean signal, but with the responsive level, clean, and boost controls, I could always find the ideal mix for frothy fuzz sounds. The tone and drive dials added tons of character, whether it was putting some extra hair on the Nash’s tone, or a stinging top-end buzz on the Jazz.
Exploring the different dimensions of fuzz with the Bass Boost Fuzz was fun, but my favorite function was the pedal’s clean boost. It boosted the signals with zero coloration, allowing the Ritter to ring clearly and the bridge pickup on the Jazz to bump up nicely.
Was He Fuzzy?
For a live comparison with other pedals, a fellow bassist (and fuzz enthusiast) incorporated the Bass Boost Fuzz into his pedalboard, which was loaded with a variety of different fuzz and overdrive pedals. Wielding a ’79 Rickenbacker 4001, we dialed in different fuzz tones with the pedals, all of which predictably required extensive knob noodling to achieve unity gain. Compared to the other pedals, we found the Bass Boost Fuzz to be a little darker, but noticeably more supportive in character. And while it didn’t possess the unbridled gain and top end found in some other pedals, the Bass Boost Fuzz captured sounds that were excellent for sludgy doom-metal drones or root-riding classics like “Dance to the Music.”
The Tech 21 Bass Boost Fuzz allows bassists to create solid fuzz tones with both active and passive instruments. The boost feature is a wonderful and versatile addition to the pedal, providing a sonic lift for some of the fuzz settings, or as a transparent tool to really make your bass stand out. And while it may not have an over-the-top amount of gnarl, the Bass Boost Fuzz offers above-average effects in a budget-friendly package.